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Into the Woods

March 25, 2015

Our second piece this week by guest blogger Basak Tunulku…

Into the Woods
I dedicate this piece to the Lake District and Cumbria

I do not know when I first experienced the woods. I remember that each summer when I travelled with my family to our summer resort, I was excited to get away from Istanbul and visit a beautiful place near the Northern Aegean Sea. Of course, this feeling was also a reflection of my quest for adventure, fed by children’s novels by Jules Verne and Enid Blyton; an adventurous voyage full of secrets to be discovered. And of course, the Northern Aegean coast is still beautiful after all these years, despite continuous efforts by governments to transform it full of summer resorts next to each other.

I’ve always admired the changing textures of Nature, between the Marmara Region – a combination of dark green woods with large metropolises – and the Aegean Region, a combination of yellowish green Mediterranean shrubs with smaller cities. I liked this contrast between the greens and the cookies made by my mom that we ate during travels. Maybe because of that, I still like cookies and pastries! You could never find the legendary English oak trees across the Aegean seaside, but there was another tree, for which legends were written: the olive tree, the symbol of peace and health that was in front of our eyes for thousands of acres during our travels. Between olive trees, there were only small plants with thorns and no flowers, usually withering because of the heat. Our summer resort was our only chance to become familiar with the ‘natural’, either by walking on the beach to collect shells, or diving in the sea to see its depths (although I was diving next to my family on the beach, this was a real challenge for me).

Sometimes we would climb a hill with a group of people usually led by a senior, like my father, who took us to look around at animals, plants and ruins. I collected small pieces of nature and took them home with me, such as seeds, shells and nice-looking ‘sacred’ stones. However, when I got older and continued my education in Istanbul, I could not find the chance to spend all my summers in a place like that. Because I was staying in Istanbul and taking summer classes, over time, I felt totally detached from woods. My life in the city was full of exams and seeing friends. I was also distracted by the desire to consume spaces such as a newly opened cafe or a shop to be discovered in the old and popular neighbourhoods of Istanbul.

Things changed for me when I came to England in 2004 for my studies at Lancaster University. Although for most students, Lancaster had never been an attractive town, with lots of shops, pubs, bars and night clubs, it opened up a new door to me which had been locked during my life in greedy and ugly Istanbul, full of individualistic people without love or respect for each other. Since Lancaster, a town with a good combo of “green, old and small” which still kept some of the rural features that shaped the English countryside, I was totally enveloped in it from my first day there. The contrast on the campus astonished me: when I entered it, passing by a steep road with trees on both sides and a pond where ducks and geese were swimming, with the fells visible at a distance under a clear sky, I thought I had come to a paradise. However, then I saw the buildings of the campus – constructed during the 1960s.

Later, I learnt the names of the fells, when I started to join daily trips organised by the university. They belonged to the legendary Lake District, with which I fell in love at first sight. And, very ironically, there is no place in the world which makes me as happy and sad at the same time as the Lake District and Ida Mountains, the mountain range near our summer resort, which I try to visit each year if I can find time. There is nothing I would add to such a place – it is, in my opinion, beauty actualised in place, and it inspired poets and painters since the Romantic Era. The Lake District or Cumbria, more than any other place is, in my opinion, the best location to experience England, due to its tremendous variety and its firm grip on its rural identity, despite the impact of tourism during the last few decades. It is both English and Celtic, with legends of stone circles and castles, thought to be of King Arthur and his father, Pendragon and names which reflect English and Celtic cultures. It is on the borderline between England and Scotland, shaped by wars and disputes between the two sides. It is both made by man and nature over thousands of years, resulting in a ‘beauty’ natural and artificial at the same time. It is both dependent on farming, as it has been for thousands of years, and on tourism, carrying thousands of white collars to experience its beauty and tradition. The feeling it arouses in me is a mixture of everything: it gives me the pleasure of being lonely and free. At the same time it brings sadness, especially when my trip ends and I know that I should go back. As one of my relatives said, places like the Lake District are not as massive as the USA or Canada, but when you go there you can see everything.

Like a theatre scene, the Lake District has more than just one layer, even if lakes are called “waters” and mountains are called “fells”. At first, you can see a small lake and a river which intermingle, and then behind them, there is a wooded area with cottages and cottonball-like sheep. Behind this lie fells not nearly as high as real mountains, but which still allow you to feel scale and grandeur.
The Lake District reminds me of my childhood, an unfulfilled and never-ending quest of going, leaving and returning again and again to discover the world and me, alone in a dark wood covered with huge trees. There the only voices I can hear, instead of through an I-Phone, are those of birds singing and of trees dancing in the breeze, as if talking to each other. I always tell myself to accept the beauty of the Lakes, either by losing my horizon in a small forest near Keswick or a small tarn in Great Langdale. When I was travelling within the Lake District, I always preferred the number 555 bus, which connects Lancaster and Keswick across a beautiful route. Sometimes I travelled in the evenings, which prevented me from seeing the beauty of the area and knowing my exact location. However, this did not prevent me from ‘seeing’ through the dark, since I could feel where I was. England gave me back the pleasure to be lost in the countryside, manmade or natural, with the feelings of freedom, admiration of beauty and quest for the self and adventure. However, I know that whether natural or manmade, when I go there to get away from mundane problems, I feel I damage its beauty.

I also know that the wood is a part of me as I am a part of it.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2015 10:56 pm

    Another nice post 🙂 Warning though, just about everywhere in England stakes some kind of claim to King Arthur – he can’t have got everywhere in those days. I still think he was much further south, possibly either Welsh Borders or Cornwall.

  2. March 26, 2015 7:41 am

    Like Robin Hood who lately seems to have travelled a long way from Sherwood.

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